NFL Week 14: Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears

tonyromoWith their playoff hopes starting to dwindle, the (6-6) Chicago Bears will host the (7-5) Dallas Cowboys in a must-win Monday night contest (8.40pm ET, ESPN).

The Bears became one of quite a few teams this season to lose their starting quarterback due to an injury. However, despite the losing record, the Bears have actually been better with Jay Cutler’s backup.

Josh McCown, an 11-year NFL veteran, has spent the bulk of his career serving as a backup QB. Only once did he come close to a full season and even then he barely topped 2,500 total yards. He threw 11 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and also had 11 fumbles.

Before this season, McCown started more than three games just twice, the last of which was in 2007. So far in 2013, he has started six games and is easily enjoying one of the best stretches of football in his career. He has thrown for over 1,400 yards, an average of just over 230 yards a game. Most impressively however is McCown’s career-high passer rating and QBR. He has thrown nine touchdowns on the season and has just the one interception to go with two fumbles.

While these are easily McCown’s best career numbers, they are also the best numbers of any Chicago QB this season. Cutler, the everyday starter, was averaging just over 230 yards a game and had eight interceptions to go with 13 touchdowns. While these numbers can be bested by McCown, they are actually the second best of Cutler’s career.

Part of the reason why McCown and Cutler were able to have this passing success is because of a wide receiver corps that is finally more than just Brandon Marshall. Marshall leads the Bears in targets, receptions and touchdowns with nine. But his 990 yards are actually only second on the team to second year wideout Alshon Jeffery’s total of 1,109.

Jeffery has been a favorite target of McCown, totaling over 100 receiving yards in two of McCown’s starts. Against the Cowboys, Jeffery and McCown will have their chances as Dallas ranks almost dead last in opponents’ passing yards per game (294.9). Dallas’ run defense isn’t much better though so expect the Chicago offense to be a balanced attack of the passing and running game.

Can Tony Romo Shake his December Demons?

Since his first full season in 2006, Dallas QB Tony Romo (pictured) has not played well in the final month of the NFL’s regular season. Romo has a record of just 11-15 in December for his career and this includes some of his worst single-game performances.

Partially because of this and because of his struggles in the playoffs, Romo has gotten the reputation as not being a big-game quarterback. For many, this is the one thing that really keeps him from aspiring to elite status in the league.

In 2013 however, Romo has been enjoying one of his best seasons as a pro. He has 24 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He has already eclipsed the 3,100 yard mark and is on pace to finish above 4,000 for the third consecutive season. Additionally, Romo’s 97.3 passer rating is the third highest of his career. If ever there was a year for Romo to turn it around in December, it would be this year.

He has been aided this season by a decent yet unspectacular group of wide receivers. His biggest ally has been runningback Demarco Murray, who could have a field day against a Chicago run defense that just allowed Adrian Peterson to rush for over 200 yards.

The one thing Dallas and Romo can’t count on however is their own defense. When it comes to keeping other teams off of the scoreboard, Dallas is one of the worst in the league. They have not been able to stop opposing teams from scoring but have done enough on offense so that this has not been a problem. Against Chicago, a team that has at times been proficient at scoring and is currently ranked fifth in the league with 26.9 PPG, the banged up Dallas D could be in for some trouble.

Cowboys at Bears Betting Picks

The Bears have been a good running team this year but most of that success has actually come away from Soldier Field. They are just 25th in the NFL in rushing offense at home. The Cowboys meanwhile, are slightly better when defending the run on the road. The team is ranked 30th on the road as opposed to 31st overall.

Dallas enters this game as just one point favorites indicating the contest is expected to be close. In their last 12 games, the Cowboys are 8-4 ATS. They are 4-2 ATS in their last six road games. Chicago meanwhile, has managed to come out victorious ATS just once in their last nine games. They are an even worse 0-5 ATS in their last five home games.

As for the total, this game pits two high scoring teams against each other. The total sits at 48 which is the third highest total of the games slated for this weekend. In their past 14 games, Chicago has played to the over 10 times. Dallas has also played to the over in four of their last five road games.

Soldier Field is a much different environment than Cowboy Stadium but it is one that has known to be friendly to the opposing offense. Permitting Chicago doesn’t get a sudden snowstorm, this should continue to be the case.

Expect Dallas to beat the spread in the win and take the over on 48 as well. This should be a high scoring difference that very well might come down to a field goal, much like the one that cost the Bears in their last game. To summarize:

RESULT UPDATE: Bears won 45-28

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